The Secret to Stocking the Digital Shelf

You know what stocking the shelf means. But what’s the digital equivalent? Here are some secrets we’ve picked up from top e-commerce teams around the world.

Everyone knows what “stocking the shelf” means in retail, but what about “stocking the digital shelf?” A digital shelf displays products online. In other words, it’s the digital equivalent of walking up and down the aisles, where online shoppers can browse, compare prices, or materials, and discover everything they need to before they click “buy.” Digital shelves help make your products discoverable and help to provide complete control over the appearance, description, and positioning of your items.

As consumers become increasingly omnichannel-savvy, retailers and e-commerce teams must ensure that the products on their digital shelves are just as appealing and easy to evaluate as the products displayed on the shelves in their brick-and-mortar stores.


A new type of shopper has evolved: the Research Online, Purchase Offline (ROPO) consumer. This concept should put your focus on the digital shelf in high gear. There is also the opposite type of shopper, the one who browses online and purchases in store. So no matter the type of shopper, the importance of the digital shelf can make or break a sale and certainly, impacts customer experience.

Getting a product well positioned on a digital shelf is not as easy as it may seem. The “digital shelf” contains the product of course, but what increases visibility on the shelf is the detailed product information, including images, descriptions, videos, materials, ingredients, instructions, ratings, reviews, product availability, pricing and promotions. Just to name a few. So what’s a merchandiser or product marketer to do to ensure consumers not only find their product on the digital shelf, but also purchase it?

Here are a few secrets top e-commerce teams use:

Go Deep:

No detail is insignificant online. Retailers are consistently testing, updating, and editing product data to better address consumer needs. Product information must be accurate and consistent across digital shelves, but they also need to be in context. Make sure to test new descriptions, features, capabilities, and contextual settings to see what works.

“It is not simply a case of investing your offline vs. online channel, it is about making your online product content relevant and engaging to drive sales for both physical and digital shelves,” according to Understanding Consumer Shopping Behaviour & Why Brands Should Invest in the Digital Shelf.

Review the Product Review:

One area to pay close attention to are online product reviews. Reviews, both user-generated and professional, can help detect potential product issues or highlight inconsistent product descriptions that are impacting conversions. Alternatively, they can showcase high-performing products or illuminate what product descriptions or areas of focus are of greatest interest to buyers.

Reviews heavily influence consumer purchase decisions online. Analyzing and responding quickly to reviews, both positive and negative, help build engagement with buyers. They also increase brand trust and customer loyalty. Leverage reviews online, ignoring them is not an option.

On-Board Suppliers:

Brands are jumping over hurdles to keep up with the ever-changing marketplaces, channels, and supplier requirements. Stocking your own digital shelf is one thing, but if you sell through distributors or marketplaces, ensure you provide partners with the same quality of product information you use.

Axbeautyhouse, the largest cosmetics retailer in the Nordics focuses on accurate product data across the entire supply chain to effectively stock their digital shelf and uses inRiver for their product information management (PIM) solution for supplier onboarding. “The product information needs to flow through the supply chain to all partners to be able to sell and create a customer journey,” said Tomas Köhlman, business admin manager at Axbeautyhouse. “The easiest way for us to do that is for our suppliers to on-board and provide us with information.”

This on-boarding is where suppliers become an essential guide for staying ahead of the competition. E-commerce today is a persistent battle for consumer attention and working together to deliver consistent product data with is one of secrets to success.

Nearly half (45%) of consumers choose Amazon first when browsing for a specific product according to a survey of over 2,000 consumers by inRiver. Given that shoppers have endless opportunities to browse online and also shop in-stores, not stocking the digital shelf is not an option. Successful e-commerce teams will focus on stocking the digital shelf and help turn browsers into buyers wherever they are.


Want to learn more about stocking the digital shelf? Listen in to the PIMtalk podcast to hear how Axebeautyhouse works with their suppliers to stock the digital shelf.

Written by

Erika Goldwater, CIPP

Erika Goldwater is the director of global communications for inRiver. An industry veteran, Erika lives and breathes B2B marketing, content, public relations, and data privacy. She's a Boston marketer who hails from Baltimore.